Study Abroad Spotlight: Jean-Pierre Vertil

Author: Sarah Snider

My upbringing in my homeland of Haiti exposed me to the many difficulties that impede the country’s development; including poverty, corruption, unemployment, and the misuse of resources. I have chosen to devote my life to the assistance and promotion of developing countries.

I learned that electricity drives opportunities and goes as far as prolonging school hours and attracting investors in different fields who in turn contribute to the growth and development of impoverished communities. In other words, the generation and access to electricity is synonymous to the generation and access to opportunities of different forms.

  Being aware of this reality, I became interested in renewable energy; notably solar energy and made it a goal to help Haiti and other developing countries identify and implement renewable energy systems to help a greater portion of their population gain clean and affordable access to electricity. I therefore enrolled the Reilly program at  Notre Dame through which I am double majoring in Electrical Engineering and Economics. From this same interest in solar energy arose the necessity for me to learn German given the fact that Germany is a leading country in this field.

I thus declared a minor in German. I am fortunate to be able to communicate in 6 different languages and have learned that language mastery is made easier by spending time in a country in which the language is spoken. I thus decided to spend a semester at Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany in order to improve my skills in the German language. I am grateful to the Multicultural Student Programs and Services (MSPS) for having granted me a scholarship to support me in my study abroad initiative. I spent about four months in Bremen in the Fall of 2016- an unusual time to study abroad given the fact that this is my last year of undergraduate education.

 

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Jacobs University is a rather small school with less than 2,000 students in the friendly town of Bremen. The school has a strong international identity and gathers students from around the world. In addition to Germany, I am fortunate to have befriended students from Lesotho, Nepal, Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, Rwanda, Colombia, Bulgaria and India to name a few. I was able to learn what it means to live in a truly diverse community, one in which the Golden Rule is at the core of all interactions; one in which no one is considered exotic but approached with genuine interest from others; one in which interactions are simply humane. At a time in which current events, namely in the United States challenged the values of diverse communities, I found in Jacobs a reconfirmation in all what diversity promises- particularly the enrichment of conversations, challenges to consider different perspectives and a call to remain attentive to social issues occurring around the world.

 

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In addition to Bremen, I was able to visit several cities: Berlin, Hamburg, and Cologne. I was thus able to experience German cuisine and traditions- particularly the visit of Christmas markets in which one may try different local delicacies including the Bratwurst (German sausage) and firewood salmon.

 

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Furthermore, I was able to work on my main goal of improving my skills in the German language. In addition to taking a course on campus, I enrolled in a local institute which met for 2 hours weekly for German courses. I was also able to enroll in a program called Explore Bremen through which I was assigned a mentee- a middle-schooler German from a low income family. I was given a stipend to take him on excursions around the city such as museum visits. Explore Bremen gave me the opportunity to not only to familiarize myself with different parts of the city, I was able to engage in community service by serving as a mentor while improving my skills in the language.

I am most grateful to having studied abroad in my last year of college as it  provided me a space out of my common routines  for meditation and reflection on my postgraduate study plans. While I am interested in the renewable energy field, my path toward my engagement in the said field was unclear at the time. Being in a place in which I could reflect without much pressure was beneficial. I ultimately decided to work full time for a startup in California called Sigora which designs smart meters to sell clean and pre-paid power in developing countries; they are currently operating in Haiti.

Overall, my study abroad experience was one that enabled me to improve on my skills in the German language, be a part of the community, meet students from different countries who have reaffirmed my beliefs in the values diverse communities and offered me a haven for personal reflection for career orientation decisions of the near future.

 

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